Thousands of miles from the U.S. shore, in the southern Caribbean Sea, the Transportation Security Administration has launched an aviation security pilot program with the St. Lucia Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation. St. Lucia is the first nation to partner with TSA in the new program to enhance aviation security in other countries through best practices and information sharing.
TSA has deployed Aviation Security Sustainable International Standards Teams (ASSIST), veteran security experts, to St. Lucia to conduct security surveys and suggest actions items in collaboration with the host nation. TSA will review such things as training needs, equipment, current aviation programs, and aviation security legislation and make appropriate recommendations. The surveys and action plans seek to raise the baseline of transportation security and effectively build long-term sustainable security programs and capacity.
"St. Lucia is an excellent choice for the commencement of the TSA ASSIST pilot program," said Loretta McNeir, Transportation Security Administration Representative (TSAR) for the region. "St. Lucia is at a turning point for aviation security and has been an excellent partner in the past. They have been extraordinarily proactive in ensuring security standards are met and we anticipate an enhancement of those practices through this pilot."
St. Lucia, which processes approximately 700,00 passengers a year from its two airports, will see an increase in passengers in coming years as well as construction of a new airport terminal.
"Security is a huge contributor to the sustainability and the economic growth of this country," said Sen. Allen M. Chastanet, minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation for St. Lucia. "We were very happy when the U.S. Government, through the U.S. Embassy and TSA, agreed to do a pilot project and so we were very quick to sign up."
ASSIST is part of the TSA Office of Global Strategies (OGS), which seeks to increase global transportation security by working proactively with foreign partners and overseas transportation operations affecting the U.S. OGS provides the expertise and support required to enhance TSA's mission in an international setting by developing, coordinating and communicating organizational policies, procedures and guidelines for TSA's global partners.
ASSIST will respond to needs as identified by the U.S departments of Homeland Security, State and Transportation, and numerous foreign governments. TSA intends to expand the program to other nations in coming months.